Travel money guide: Switzerland

What every traveler needs to know about how to spend finding the right travel money product to use in Switzerland.

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Whether you plan on skiing the Matterhorn or exploring the historical Basel Munster church, you’ll need to organize your travel money before you arrive in Switzerland. If you’re not sure where to start, use our travel money guide to compare money options and plan your budget before your big vacation.

Because Switzerland isn’t part of the European Union, they use the Swiss franc instead of the euro. As a political and economic center of Europe, Switzerland boasts a huge international population with banking and financial services the center of their industry. You won’t have any problems finding ATMs, banks and merchants that take credit cards all over the country. Most businesses accept Mastercard and Visa, and you’ll find less that will take your American Express and Diners cards. Read on for a comparison of products you can use in Switzerland without the fees for international transactions.

Why you’ll need a combination of travel money options

There are a number of ways to access your money when you’re on vacation, and it’s best to use a combination of of products. Credit cards give you money when you need it and can cover you in a financial emergency. Debit cards are good for access to your cash, without all the traveling fees.

Whether you’re heading to Switzerland to hit the slopes or simply to enjoy the culture, be sure to get your spending budget in order before you leave so you can hit the slopes with no worries.

Compare travel credit cards

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
20,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
1.25x miles on all purchases and 10x miles at hotels.com/venture
$0
Earn 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
American Express® Green Card
30,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
3x Membership Rewards® points on all eligible travel, 3x points at restaurants and 1x points on all other purchases
$150
Earn 3x Membership Rewards® points on all eligible travel, 3x points at restaurants and 1x points on all other purchases. Rates & fees
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months, plus $50 when you make a Delta purchase in the same timeframe
2x miles on Delta purchases and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months, plus $50 when you make a direct Delta purchase in the same timeframe. Rates & fees
CardMatch™ from creditcards.com
See terms
See terms
See terms
Can't decide on a card? Get personalized credit card offers with CardMatch™.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

Compare up to 4 providers

How many francs do I need to bring to Switzerland?

Yes, the rumors are true, Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world to visit, and, according to some estimates, the most expensive country in the world to live. You can plan to spend anywhere from $75 to $400 a day, depending on what adventures you seek.

Zurich Budget Midrange Expensive
sleep Sleep Hostel
$45–$100 per night
2 star hotel
$100–$250 per night
5 star hotel
$250–$800 per night
food Eat Swiss sausage sandwich plus a pint of beer (street food)
$15
Noodle house (restaurant)
$30 per dish
Michelin star restaurant
$100 or more per person
rent-a-bike Do Rent a bike and ride around the city
Rental is free + $30 deposit
Entry to the Kunsthaus Gallery
$35 per person
50-minute massage for 2 at exclusive day spa
$350

*Prices are approximate and based on summer seasonality and are subject to change

Exchange rate history

The Swiss Franc is one of the most stable currencies in the world and definitely one of the most valuable. Since the Global Financial Crisis, the value of the US dollar has dropped against the Swiss franc. The past few years, 1 USD is worth about 0.90 CHF.

Compare money transfers to Switzerland

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Which one do I choose: Travel card, debit card or credit card?

Visa and Mastercard branded cards are accepted in more places than American Express and Diners cards throughout Switzerland. Look for logos at ATM point of sale terminals to be sure. Switzerland has a modern banking economy — it is their primary industry — so you won’t need lots of cash on your travels. If your card has a chip you’ll be able to make contactless payments.

Travel money options for Switzerland at a glance

Travel money option Pros Considerations
Debit cards
  • Secured with a chip and a PIN technology
  • In case you lose your card, block transactions with a phone call
  • It’s easy to find ATMs in Switzerland
  • No back-up card if you lose it on your trip
  • Some charge currency conversion and ATM fees
Prepaid travel money cards
  • Hold multiple foreign currencies at a time
  • Save on currency conversion fees
  • Can case you lose your card, block transactions with a phone call
  • Comes with a back up card
  • Secured with a chip and a PIN technology
  • Money back guarantee for fraud
  • Not able to load Swiss francs
  • Pay a currency conversion fee to use USD
  • You’ll pay ATM fees
Credit cards
  • No currency conversion fees
  • Features such as insurance or reward points earning
  • Some offer no foreign transaction fees
  • You’ll pay a lot for a cash advance
  • Rewards program may cost more than they are worth
Traveler’s checks
  • Accepted at most banks and hotels
  • Security
  • Can be costly with initial purchase charges
  • Not all merchants accept traveler’s checks
Cash
  • Greater payment flexibility
  • Convenience
  • More difficult to manage expenses
  • Higher risk of theft

This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.

Using travel cards, debit cards, credit cards and other options in Switzerland

Using credit cards

A travel credit card gives you access to a line of credit, and you won’t pay for currency conversion when you transact in francs. Compare cards that offer no foreign transaction fees and offer rewards. We don’t advise making a withdrawal on credit as cash advance charges apply and you’ll start paying an APR the day the transaction is made. Consider travel extras such as insurance or an increased rewards for travel when you’re comparing credit cards to use overseas.

  • Tip: Some providers waive cash advance charges when you keep a positive balance and make ATM withdrawals. Find out which providers let you do this and which won’t.
  • Using a credit card in Switzerland

Using debit cards

A debit card lets you spend and withdraw in Switzerland like you would at home. Find a debit card that waives the international ATM withdrawal fee and you can make free ATM withdrawals when you use an ATM offered by a Swiss bank — European and Swiss banks don’t charge ATM fees. The Charles Schwab could be a handy product to use in Switzerland, With no conversion or ATM fees, this card can save you money.

  • Tip: Make sure your debit card has a chip to avoid situations where you card won’t be accepted.

Using prepaid travel cards

There are no prepaid travel cards that hold Swiss francs. Usually, the advantage of these cards is you can hold multiple foreign currencies at a time and save on currency conversion fees. A travel card makes sense if you’re spending your time in the Eurozone (France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain etc) and the UK, but if you’re spending the majority of your time in Switzerland, you’ll pay for currency conversion when you spend in francs.

The currency conversion fee can be double the charge applied to most credit cards and debit cards. Travel money products can charge the Visa or Mastercard rate plus 4.5% for currency conversion and charges for international ATM withdrawals. So, regardless of which product you choose, you’re going to pay for currency conversion, international ATM withdrawals — or both when you use a travel card in Switzerland.

Using traveler’s checks

Traveler’s checks are an outdated way to travel with money — it’s far easier and cheaper to use an ATM. If you do have traveler’s checks, you can cash your them at exchange offices in train stations or a bank. Exchange offices offer the same rates as banks; however they may charge a commission for the transaction.

  • Tip: Banks are open during regular business hours Monday to Friday: 8:30 a.m.– 4:30 p.m.

Taking a cash with you

It’s cheaper to get your cash exchanged in Switzerland than in the US, and even cheaper still with a no-fee ATM card. If you do have US dollars or euros you need to exchange in Switzerland, bureaux de change outlets can be found at airports and train stations. You can also change your money at a bank, which will give you the most competitive rate for changing cash, and shouldn’t charge a commission either.

  • Tip: Some large retailers will accept euros — though a majority will not. If you use euros, you will get a worse rate than paying with the local currency.
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Fresh tracks: Bart snowboarding in Verbier, Switzerland

Bart goes to Switzerland every couple of years to snowboard. He splurges on a six day heli-skiing package in Verbier, which is recognized as providing the best off-piste snowboarding in the world. He says he gets to the mountain from Geneva and, when he’s done, takes a little side trip to Berlin and then to Paris before flying home. He uses Swiss francs in Switzerland and euros in Germany and France. He spends about three weeks to a month in Europe each time he visits.

What cards did you take with you?

Why did you take these cards?

Charles Schwab is Bart’s everyday bank in the US, and he uses his credit card back home and doesn’t pay any fees for using any ATM.

The United Milage Plus card gave him access to the United Club airport lounges in the US and around the world. Bart pays his credit card account in full every month, which means he can take advantage of up to 21 days interest-free on purchases made during his trip.

Where could you use your cards?

Bart wanted to use his Unted Milage Plus to earn more miles to pay for his frequent trips on United Airlines. He used it for his big-item purchases like his heli-skiing package. Because it’s a Visa card, he could also use it over the counter for most purchases when he was in Switzerland.

What about making ATM withdrawals?

Bank ATMs in Switzerland do not charge an operator fee when you make a withdrawal. He says he didn’t have any troubles using his Visa Debit Card at ATMs and he never had to look far to find a cashpoint.

What’s your recommendation about travel money for Switzerland?

Bart says if you’re conscious of cutting out the fees for international transactions, you can’t find a better card than the Charles Schwab debit card, which is the account he’s had for years. It doesn’t charge international ATM fees, currency conversion fees or an account keeping fee.

Promoted
Travelex Money Card

Why we like: Travelex Money Card

Load GBP, EUR, CAD, AUD, JPY or MXN onto this prepaid travel money card and use it at millions of locations worldwide.

  • Not linked to your bank account for safety.
  • Convert currency with a 5.50% foreign exchange fee
  • Contactless payments
  • Reload, withdraw, or replace your card for free.
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    Buying Swiss francs in the US

    It’s cheaper to exchange your US dollars once you arrive in Switzerland, either at a bank or an ATM. If you do want francs before you arrive you can get money changed at any of the providers listed below. There are ATMs at every international airport (Zurich, Geneva, Basel etc), which should eliminate the need to change currency in the US.

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    Get travel insurance quotes for your vacation in Switzerland

    Name Product Trip Cancellation Emergency Medical Expenses Baggage Coverage Trip delay
    Travelex Travel Basic
    100%
    $15,000
    $500
    $500
    Essential travel coverage — with the option to customize — that can protect the cost of your trip.
    Travelex Flight Insure
    $10,000
    $1,000
    $100
    Protect the cost of your flight and choose the coverage amount that meets your needs — trip delay protection included.
    Allianz Travel OneTrip Emergency Medical Plan
    $50,000
    $2,000
    $1,000
    Budget-friendly policy designed for international and domestic travelers who want medical protection. Trip cancellation and trip interruption not included.
    Allianz Travel AllTrips Basic Plan
    $20,000
    $1,000
    $600
    Annual policy that offers affordable protection, but doesn't include trip cancellation or trip interruption.
    RoamRight Essential Travel Insurance Plan
    100%
    $15,000
    $750
    $500
    Basic policy with coverage that includes trip cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance and baggage insurance.

    Compare up to 4 providers

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